Before you start in with the “ho hum, here’s another World War II first-person shooter” spiel, Medal of Honor: European Assault has something it wants to tell you: all WWII first-person shooters aren’t created the same. Sure, they share certain elements (historical settings, weapons, Axis and Allied forces), but the presentation and gameplay isn’t necessarily cloned from one game to the next. And MOH: European Assault is just such an anti-clone.
Like the Medal of Honor games before it, and most WWII first-person shooters for that matter, MOH: European Assault takes place in a variety of historically based locations. In this case, it’s St. Nazaire, North Africa, Russia and the Battle of the Bulge, each of which is further divided into a handful of missions (four, two, two and three, respectively). Naturally, these chapters tell different tales from World War II and let players work through different struggles for themselves.
The core gameplay remains the same in each mission, with a primary objective generally hinging on players destroying (or securing) a certain landmark or uncovering certain information. Players have a few basic commands to their squad (“go” and “regroup”), but by and large this is a single-player game (read: there’s not much team play necessary). Along the way, the game “branches” to reveal several secondary and tertiary objectives, each of which is completely optional but allows players to earn a higher medal of honor if they complete it. While interesting, two things really keep the multiple-objective concept from really taking off.
The first is each objective being highlighted on the radar by a colored arrow (yellow for primary, blue for secondary), which does keep players from wandering the levels aimlessly, but has the side effect of players locating secondary objectives rather easily. The second problem, which ties into the ease factor, is that most of the secondary objectives are uncovered while making your way to the primary objective, which results in a surprisingly low emphasis on exploring each level. Meeting all the objectives on a few levels can require a bit of poking around, but by and large, players can just go through the FPS motions and earn silver medals with ease.
That’s not to say the game itself is easy, although it’s not the most complicated (or long) game, either. The biggest challenge isn’t the enemy AI, although it does use cover and have an uncanny knack for knowing where you’re hiding. Rather, it’s the realistic amount of ammunition players are allotted in each level. Grenades, rifle ammunition, shotgun shells, submachine gun clips and grenades are all easy to find in the early levels, but moving into Russia and the Battle of the Bulge presents and entirely different story. What’s more, although enemies drop ammunition as they fall, those clips disappear if players don’t pick them up soon enough, which can lead to some frantic moments as you scramble through a firefight trying to pick up a few clips before suffering from the “out of ammunition” message.
If there’s anything that makes the game “easy,” in fact, it’s the use of an adrenaline meter. Like the love child of bullet-time and ‘roid rage, adrenaline in MOH: European Assault builds as players kill more and more enemies, and, once maxed out, lets players go on a temporary rampage in which their shots do extra damage, their enemies move more slowly and the main character himself avoids taking damage. Although a fun inclusion, this has a tendency to really stand out in what is otherwise a rather authentic-feeling game.
So authentic does MOH: European Assault feel, in fact, that more often than not you’re compelled to complete each level not out of the gameplay itself, but by a desire to see the next documentary-like cut scene. Like a public broadcasting special, MOH: European Assault makes great use of archival footage from WWII and a story-like narrator to give players a a history lesson while letting them play as the young version of the narrator, a WWII veteran. The presentation is really top notch, and kudos to the developers for not only doing their homework, but presenting it in an entertaining way.
Unfortunately, the production values of that top-notch presentation leave something to be desired. Graphically and aurally, MOH: European Assault isn’t quite up to snuff with many of the other WWII shooters on the market. The environmental diversity is fantastic, and the levels include multiple paths with which they feign non-linearity, but the textures are bland, and the clipping, both with the environment and the non-playable characters, is incredibly common. Character models, too, are a little underwhelming, although, like the weapons, they do change from chapter to chapter.
Somewhat surprisingly, MOH: European Assault doesn’t include any online multiplayer options, with two- to eight-player games limited to split-screen and LAN play. The multiplayer options themselves include Deathmatch, “Axis vs. Allies” team-based play and a “Free For All” mode that includes various game types such as King of the Hill, Survival and a juggernaut-like mode. Players can also create a custom game type, although the plethora of other WWII shooters with online support will probably demand more attention in that regard.
MOH: European Assault is an average game, but its presentation, not its gameplay, is what sets it apart from other WWII shooters. If you’ve not yet played a WWII-themed shooter, this is a good one on which to cut your teeth while getting a well-researched and entertaining history lesson in the process. The thing of it is, the chances are high that you’ve already played your fair share of WWII games, so MOH: European Assault is probably going to be one you’ll be just as happy passing by.
- Gameplay: 7.6
- Standard FPS fare with a minimal amount of squad play, but the adrenaline option seems a bit forced.
- Graphics: 7.5
- Decent but bland, the engine needs some reworking and the textures need sharpening.
- Sound: 7.6
- Nice music and THX support, but nothing that really stands out or draws you in.
- Replay: 6
- With limited multiplayer options, you’ve got to be a hardcore gold-medal junkie to get much longevity out of this one.
- Overall: 7.4
- An average shooter in which the presentation and education are more compelling than the game itself.
— Jonas Allen